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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible
Psalms 78

 

 

Verses 9-72

This story of the children of Israel, after they came out of Egypt, is like a looking-glass in which we may, with great sadness, see ourselves reflected.

Psalms 78:9. The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.

They had every opportunity of serving their God; he had provided them with fit weapons for the war, but they were cowardly, so they “turned back in the day of battle.”

Psalms 78:10-11. They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in his law; and forgat his works, and his wonders that he had shewed them.

Let each one of us ask, “Does the psalmist describe me?”

Psalms 78:12-13. Marvellous things did he in the sight of their fathers, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan. He divided the sea, and caused them to pass through; and he made the waters to stand as an heap.

What a marvelous miracle that dividing of the Red Sea was! Did it not make an abiding impression upon them? I will be bound to say that many of them said, “We shall never doubt God again.” Yet, soon they did doubt, and murmur, and rebel against him!

Psalms 78:14-16. In the daytime also he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a light of fire. He clave the rocks in the wilderness, and gave them drink as out of the great depths. He brought streams also out of the rock, and caused waters to run down like rivers.

It seemed as if there was nothing that the Lord would not do for them; all that they needed for food and refreshment was given to them freely.

Psalms 78:17-18. And they sinned yet more against him by provoking the most High in the wilderness. And they tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lust.

He had given them food for their necessities, but now they must have meat for their lusts.

Psalms 78:19. Yea, they spoke against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?

So you see, dear friends, what speaking against God really is; I am afraid that we also have often done that. To question God’s power, is to speak against him. Perhaps you have thought lightly of your unbelieving speeches, but God does not think lightly of them; to my mind it seems that there is hardly anything that so grieves him as the doubts of his people concerning him.

Psalms 78:20. Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people?

There ought to have been no question as to the Lord’s power; the God who could fetch water out of a rock could, if he pleased, make loaves of bread out of the sand under their feet, or cause the very stars to drop with meat for them if necessary.

Psalms 78:21. Therefore the Lord heard this, and was wroth:

He was really angry with his people because they doubted him. He loved them, and because he loved them, it cut him to the quick that they should have questioned his power to bless them.

Psalms 78:21-23. So a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel; Because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation: Though he had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven,

Unbelief is very hard to kill. God opens the doors and windows of heaven to feed his people; yet, nevertheless, the next time they are in trouble, they begin to stagger at the promise. Oh, shameful unbelief!

Psalms 78:24-29. And had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them of the corn of heaven. Man did eat angels’ food: he sent them meat to the full. He caused an east wind to blow in the heaven : and by his power he brought in the south wind. He rained flesh also upon them as dust, and feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea: and he let it fall in the midst of their camp, round about their habitations. So they did eat, and were well filled: for he gave them their own desire;

Yet that was not a blessing to them; and, brethren, let us ever be afraid of our own desire, unless that desire comes from the Lord. You know how David puts it in the 37th Psalm: “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” If, however, thou findest thy delight in any earthly thing, it shall be a plague to thee to have the desire of thy heart: “He gave them their own desire; “ —

Psalms 78:30. They were not estranged from their lust.

For the more last gets, the more lust wants. It is like the daughter of the horse-leech, that always cries, “Give! Give!” God can satisfy the longing soul, but all the world cannot satisfy the cravings of lust.

Psalms 78:30-31. But while their meat was yet in their mouths, the wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel.

They received what they pined for, but they had a curse with it. Affliction with a blessing is far better than prosperity with a curse.

Psalms 78:32. For all this they sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works.

They were dyed ingrain with unbelief, so that it seemed as if it could not be washed out of them.

Psalms 78:33. Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble.

A great part of our trouble is the fruit of our own unbelief. It is like hemlock in the furrows of the field. They who distrust God are making a rod for their own back; and before they have done with it, they will have to rue the day in which they thought themselves wiser than God.

Psalms 78:34-36. When he slew them, then they sought him : and they returned and inquired early after God. And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer. Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues.

Some men are like dull animals that will not go without the whip. Many of us cannot be kept right without constant affliction; if our God gives us a little smooth walking, we go half-asleep, or we trip and stumble; so he is compelled, as it were, to make our way very rough, and often to strike us with the rod, to keep us from falling altogether into sinful slumber. How many there are who, when they do seem to turn to God, in times of sickness, are not truly penitent! A death-bed repentance may be true; but, oh, what a risk there is that it may be false!

Psalms 78:37-51. For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant. But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath. For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again. How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert! Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel. They remembered not his hand, nor the day when he delivered them from the enemy. How he had wrought his signs in Egypt, and his wonders in the field of Zoan : and had turned their rivers into blood; and their floods, that they could not drink. He sent divers sorts of flies among them, which devoured them; and frogs, which destroyed them. He gave also their increase unto the caterpillar, and their labour unto the locust. He destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycamore trees with frost. He gave up their cattle also to the hail, and their flocks to hot thunderbolts. He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them. He made a way to his anger; he spared not their soul from death, but gave their life over to the pestilence; and smote all the firstborn in Egypt; the chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham:

This is what God did with their enemies who had oppressed them, that he might set his people at liberty. After all that, ought they not to have trusted him as a little child trusts its mother, without ever a question or a doubt While he thus overthrew their enemies, see what he did for his own people.

Psalms 78:52-56. But made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock. And he led them on safely, so that they feared not: but the sea overwhelmed their enemies. And he brought them to the border of his sanctuary, even to this mountain, which his right hand had purchased. Be cast out the heathen also before them, and divided them an inheritance by line, and made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents.Yet they tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies;

This sad note seems to come over and over again, as if they never could have too much of grieving God; yet the Lord was still tender towards them. Well may we sing, —

“Who is a pardoning God like thee?

Or who has grace so rich and free?”

Psalms 78:57-64. But turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow. For they provoked him to anger with their high places, and moved him to jealousy with their graven images. When God heard this, he was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel: so that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men; and delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemy’s hand. He gave his people over also unto the sword; and was wroth with his inheritance. The fire consumed their young men; and their maidens were not given to marriage. Their priests fell by the sword; and their widows made no lamentation.

They were dumb with excess of grief. When God chastises his children, he does not play at it. Sometimes, when be is angry at their sin, he lays on the blows fast and heavily, till their very bones are broken, so that they may hate sin as God hates it, and seek after holiness even as God loves it. So, dear friends, I pray that, if any of us have lost the consolations of God, and are feeling the weight of his rod, we may begin to inquire what secret thing it is in us which has angered him, and go back to him, and seek to stand before him as once we did; for, otherwise, he will smite, and smite, and smite yet again and again. But, notice, that the Lord never delights in chastening his children; he is glad to have done with the necessary correction. So, when their enemies were most cruel with them, —

Psalms 78:65-69. Then the Lord awaked as one out of sleep, and like a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine. And he smote his enemies in the hinder parts: he put them to a perpetual reproach. Moreover he refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim: but chose the tribe of Judah, the mount Zion which he loved. And he built his sanctuary like high palaces, like the earth which he hath established for ever.

You see that we are getting into clear water now; it was all broken water, storm and hurricane, while we heard of what Israel did; but when we come to deal with God in Christ, of whom David is the type, then how sweetly everything goes!

Psalms 78:70-72. He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds: from following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance. So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.

Blessed be God who puts away the sin of his people, because he delighteth in mercy!


Verses 10-61

The story of how the children of Israel behaved themselves towards their gracious God.

Psalms 78:10-16. They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in his law; and forgat his works, and his wonders that he had shewed them. Marvellous things did he in the sight of their fathers, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan. He divided the sea, and caused them to pass through, and he made the waters to stand as an heap. In the daytime also he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a light of fire. He clave the rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink as out of the great depths. He brought streams also out of the rock, and caused waters to run down like rivers.

In such a scene of miracles, surrounded by such prodigies of goodness, what did they do?

Psalms 78:17. And they sinned yet more against him by provoking the most High in the wilderness.

What a fierce fire must sin be that it is even fed by the rivers of God’s goodness, and burns by means of that which ought to have quenched every spark of it. Yet there is such a fire as that raging in our hearts, and even God’s mercies will make us more sinful unless his abounding grace comes with them to teach us how to use them aright.

Psalms 78:18. And they tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lust.

Not for their needs, but “for their lust.” It is a dreadful thing when prayer itself is prostituted, and the mercy-seat becomes a place for the expression of sinful desires which ought never to have been in our hearts. It was so, however, with these children of Israel.

Psalms 78:19. Yea, they spake against God;

As you read that “they spake against God,” you naturally suppose that they uttered some blasphemy, or some denial of his Deity. Listen and learn: —

Psalms 78:19. They said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?

That is speaking against him, — to speak unbelievingly, — to speak in a questioning way concerning his power. I am afraid that there are very few of us who can plead innocence on this score.

Psalms 78:20. Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? Can he provide flesh for his people?

These things, which they lusted after, they also turned into subjects for unbelief; and they even misused the miracle, which they dared not deny.

Psalms 78:21-22. Therefore the LORD heard this, and was wroth: so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israe;. Because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation:

This was the provoking sin. The Lord would not endure such wanton and wicked unbelief as this. After he had turned the rocks into rivers, could he not turn the stones into bread, and the dust of the desert into flesh, if he chose to do so?

Psalms 78:23-32. Though he had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven, and had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them of the corn of heaven. Man did eat angels’ food: he sent them meat to the full. He caused an east wind to blow in the heaven: and by his power he brought in the south wind. He rained flesh also upon them as dust, and feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea: and he let it fall in the midst of their camp, round about their habitations. So they did eat, and were well filled: for he gave them their own desire; they were not estranged from their lust. But while their meat was yet in their mouths, the wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel. For all this they sinned still,

Mercy failed to move them, and judgment failed too. The right hand of God’s gifts and the left hand of his chastisement were equally ignored.

Psalms 78:32-34. And believed not for his wondrous works. Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble. When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and enquired early after God.

Perhaps some of them fought him even while they were dying; and the remnant that survived trembled, and “returned and enquired early after God.”

Psalms 78:35-36. And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer. Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues.

Oh, this is terrible! One would have thought that they would have been sincere when they were broken down with sorrow, but it was not so. And I fear that the kind of religion which has to be whipped into us is never good for much. It must have in it the element of spontaneousness if it is to be sincere; it was not so with these people.

Psalms 78:37-41. For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant. But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath. For he remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again. How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert! Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.

In their unbelieving imagination, they circumscribed his power; they thought that he could do something, but not everything; they believed him one day, and doubted him the next.

Psalms 78:42-45. They remembered not his hand, nor the day when he delivered them from the enemy. How he had wrought his signs in Egypt, and his wonders in the field of Zoan: and had turned their rivers into blood; and their floods, that they could not drink. He sent divers sorts of flies among them, which devoured them; and frogs, which destroyed them.

All these judgments fell upon their enemies, but they failed to remember them,

Psalms 78:46-56. He gave also their increase unto the caterpillar, and their labour unto the locust. He destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycamore trees with frost. He gave up their cattle also to the hail, and their flocks to hot thunderbolts. He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them. He made a way to his anger; he spared not their soul from death, but gave their life over to the pestilence; and smote all the firstborn in Egypt, the chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham: but made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock. And he led them on safely, so that they feared not: but the sea overwhelmed their enemies. And he brought them to the border of his sanctuary, even to this mountain, which his right hand had purchased. He cast out the heathen also before them, and divided them an inheritance by line, and made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents. Yet they tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies:

Oh, these terrible “yets”! Though God was faithful to the end, and kept his covenant, and brought them into the land which he swore to their fathers that he would give them. Yet they tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies.”

Psalms 78:57-61. But turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow. For they provoked him to anger with their high places, and moved him to jealousy with their graven images.

When God heard this, he was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel: so that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men; and delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemy’s hand.

This exposition consisted of readings from Psalms 78:10-61; and 1 Peter 4:1-13.

 


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Psalms 78:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/psalms-78.html. 2011.


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Friday, November 17th, 2017
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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